Disaster Leads to Prevention Guidance

A program that grew out of a reaction from the 1984 chemical tragedy at Bhopal, India, has taken another step forward with the Environmental Protection Agencys release of guidance to help states and local governments develop programs to prevent the accidental release of toxic gases and chemicals.

A program that grew out of a reaction from the 1984 chemical tragedy at Bhopal, India, has taken another step forward with the Environmental Protection Agencys release of guidance to help states and local governments develop programs to prevent the accidental release of toxic gases and chemicals.

The “Risk Management Program Guidance for Implementing Agencies” describes how agencies can develop effective Risk Management Programs (RMPs) through outreach programs, technical assistance, training and risk management audits.

On Dec. 3, 1984, toxic gas leaked from a pesticide plant in Bhopal, killing 2,000 people and injuring 150,000 more. After the disaster, EPA and other stakeholders began programs to improve emergency planning at the local level in the United States. In 1986, Congress adopted many aspects of these programs as the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). As its title indicates, EPCRA has two major concerns: improved emergency planning locally, where emergency response occurs, and improved information to the public about hazardous chemicals in the community.

EPCRA focuses on understanding hazards and planning for emergencies to ensure that when an accidental release occurs, the local responders will be able to take quick, effective action to protect public health and the environment.

EPA recognized, however, that for hazardous gases — and liquids that rapidly become gases when released — emergency response was not enough. Such hazardous substances can move quickly into the community when an accident occurs. Emergency response can limit the release, but may not be sufficient to protect the public. EPA set out to develop rules to help prevent such accidents or at least limit their adverse consequences.

In 1986, EPA began working with industry and others to identify ways to improve safety practices. Congress, in 1990, included prevention requirements in its amendments to the Clean Air Act to address the dangers of hazardous chemicals released into the air. On June 20, 1996, EPA published its final rule on accidental release prevention.

Its recently released guidance document provides detailed information on setting up an effective risk management program. Copies of the guidance are available electronically on the Internet at: http://www.epa.gov/swercepp/whatnew.html or by calling 1-800-490-9198 and requesting document number EPA-550-R-98-002).

Is My Face Red!

In my last Viewpoint Column I wrongly calculated that U.S. Filter with $4.5 billion in business had cornered one-tenth of the world water industry market, which is valued at some $350 billion to $600 billion. I must have been suffering from severe brain fade that week. As many of you pointed out in e-mails, faxes and phone calls, its ONE percent, not ten. One of the fun things about writing a regular column for WaterWorld is that when I make a mistake more than 65,000 readers have a chance to see it —and a certain percentage are going to let me know. I really dont mind. At least it shows you are paying attention.

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